"You owe me money!" he demanded. I was shocked. "Why do I owe you money?" I asked. "You charged me too much for the land--the land isn't worth that much. You robbed me!" he blurted out. I now saw the picture. I had previously sold other similar acreages for much lower prices and on discovering this, Graham felt robbed. But he had agreed to pay the price so I calmly replied, "Graham, you asked me if I would sell you some land. You agreed to the price and signed the contract, which went through our solicitors. I am sorry but I do not owe you any money. I am not going to pay you any money." Graham looked so angry and frustrated. "You go to church but you robbed me--you robbed me." He turned and left but his last statement left me justifying my position to myself. As a young man, I had worked and saved my money. I had not gone to parties or movies, or bought music. I had bought old second-hand cars and bought most of my clothes from op shops. I spent my spare time looking for land I could buy and by my late 20s, with the blessing and providence of the Lord, I came to own a house in a beachside suburb, a 40-acre beachfront property and a 65-acre property in a beautiful rural setting. At the same time, I became a Christian. As I read the Bible, I came across verses such as "the land is mine [the Lord's] and you are . . . my tenants" (Leviticus 25:23), which made me consider how I could be a steward of the land I had acquired. I was approached by some church families about selling them some land to build a home. They had low incomes and teenage children, so I decided to charge them a price they could afford from their savings. It was less than the land was worth but I felt it was the right thing to do. In Graham's case, however, both he and his wife were teachers on professional incomes. They had no children, so I charged them the market value of the land.
As I mulled over these thoughts, I felt justified in refusing Graham's request. After all, he had initially agreed to the price and the transaction had been done legally. So with my conscience satisfied, I soon forgot about Graham's claims.
I decided to use the money from the sale of the land to buy a boat. Before long, I found a beautiful diesel-powered Huon Pine cruising yacht with full headroom, galley and toilet. The owner--a doctor--was firm with his price and would not agree to any offers I made. This meant I would have to take out a loan for the shortfall-- something I did not wish to do, as I had been mortgage and debt free for several years.
I had previously prayed that the Lord would impress the doctor to agree to my price but it had not happened. So as I drove to my appointment at the bank, I prayed to the Lord about having to borrow money. The Lord impressed me to agree to Graham's request--that even though I would have less money for the boat, the Lord could impress the doctor to lower his price. Through this experience, I began to understand that the Lord can provide in many ways, I made a promise to the Lord to pay Graham the money he claimed I owed him.
I took out the loan and bought the yacht, enjoying many years of sailing with family and friends. At the same time, it took me about two years to pay off the loan and save up the money for Graham. When I had the full amount, I posted him a cheque.
Two days later, on a Friday afternoon, there was a knock on our back door. As I opened the door, there stood Graham with tears streaming down his face. He had come to thank me for the money and tell me his story.
After buying the land, Graham had decided to give up his job and owner-build a home on the land, living off the single income of his wife. They had also formed friendships with their Christian neighbours and accepted Jesus as their Saviour. But their home building plans had gone amiss. Graham's wife became pregnant and illness forced her to give up her job when their home was only partly finished. If they could somehow get the money to pay for the roof, their home would become liveable. Without having to pay rent, they could finish the project on the casual income Graham was able to get. With the faith of new Christians, they had prayed that God would somehow provide them with the money for the roof. The next day, my cheque had arrived.
I was amazed at the story but rejoiced that my obeying the Lord's promptings two years earlier had fulfilled this answer to prayer. I saw how the Lord can work through us.
But the story doesn't end there. Several years later, my wife and I decided to move our family to another state and I realised I had to sell the yacht. I put it on the market and although it was now seven years older, I obtained double the price I paid for it.
If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord--and he will repay you! Proverbs 19:17. John Ashton is strategic research manager for Sanitarium Health Food Company. He is also the author of a number of books, including Uncorked: The Hidden Hazards of Alcohol, and lives in Cooranbong, New South Wales.